Lis Webb: My experience volunteering with OMF (UK)

‘Before that, I had largely thought that world mission was for ‘other people’!’, Lis says. Discover how Bridge Asia helped Lis find her place in God’s global plan.

  1. Where did your interest in mission begin?

When my son, John, produced a one-man show on the life of Hudson Taylor some 15 years or so ago. Before that, I had largely thought that world mission was for ‘other people’! God really spoke to me through his word and through the life of Hudson Taylor, and then John and his wife were called by God to gospel work in Japan. He and his family have now been there, with OMF, for 10 years. I have really come to understand that we all have a role to play in mission, though it helps to have the Japan focus within the family.

  1. Why did you join Bridge Asia?

When the idea of Bridge Asia was first floated, I thought it would be a way to be more actively involved in God’s work in the world, on top of praying for John and Sian, and rather passively attending conferences. However, I also thought I would wait until I was retired (just a couple of years away at that point) so that I could give it more time. God had other ideas – everything I read connected with OMF seemed to shout Bridge Asia at me and so I applied pretty much straightaway, not really expecting to be accepted! It was a bit of a shock when I was! Having realised that we all have a role to play in mission, even if we aren’t called to go ourselves, and having family serving overseas, I hoped I would be able to get more involved and learn more about how mission works. With family members serving with OMF, it was also an opportunity to discover more about the organisation they are a part of.

  1. Through your time in Bridge Asia, what have you learned about:

God calls us to partner with him in sharing the good news of Jesus with the world (amazingly!) and we cannot ignore that call. The idea of “6 ways of mission” helped me see that there is something for everyone and that no role is unimportant.

I’ve also grown in my understanding of the gospel; it is all embracing and for all people. We cannot leave people in ignorance of the wonderful saving grace of the cross. Ephesians 2:12 talks of people “having no hope and without God in the world.” What a terrible place to leave people when we have the good news of Jesus to take to them.

  1. How has Bridge Asia helped your faith grow?

It has made me look long and hard at my prayer life, and my own vision and values, which is a great thing to do. Then seeing answers to prayer in terms of actually finding myself out there, visiting unknown church groups and speaking in front of varied numbers of people (from 5 to 50+), having had no experience of this before. Firstly, God answered prayer in terms of me actually getting invitations, then when going into unknown situations, somehow, I knew he had gone before and prepared the way. The technology even worked (well, nearly always)! Meeting with others who have been on the mission field, as well as explaining what John and Sian were doing and how God has been using them, have all been a great encouragement to faith.

  1. How has Bridge Asia grown your mission interest in a particular country?

Since John and Sian are in Japan, my main focus has been there obviously. Finding out information about Japan to be able to go out to talk about it has made a huge difference to my commitment to Japan as a nation in need of prayer. I could have done that anyway, but I doubt I would have been quite so in need of being well informed if I hadn’t had to consider that people might ask me questions!

It has also taught me that for any given country I hear about, (for example the countries where my own church supports missionaries) I almost certainly don’t understand what is going on, and maybe should be finding out more!

  1. How does it fit in with other commitments?

I am able to accept invitations to go and talk when it suits me. Even when I was working fulltime, I managed to do about one a month on average. Since I retired, in some ways it’s been more complicated because life is a little more random, but I am still able to schedule everything around other commitments. Doing research and preparing talks can be done as it suits, and having now been a mission advocate for 5 years, I have more information at my fingertips so it all takes less time.

  1. What has been encouraging about being part of Bridge Asia?

Being invited back to the same church 5 years in a row; anytime someone has said to me “I didn’t realise Japan needed our prayers”; praying for 10 talks in my first year, and God providing exactly that number; finding myself much more at ease talking about mission in general to individuals

Also, some of the people I’ve met: a lady in one church who had spent time in Japan, and organised a whole Sunday morning to be around my presentation on Japan, following it up with a time of prayer. Connecting with OMF workers such as Miriam Davis and others who have made me feel part of the bigger picture of what OMF is doing. And Aki – a Japanese student who became a Christian over here but is now back in Japan.

  1. How has your church benefited from Bridge Asia?

Because of my OMF connections, my church has had 2 OMF mission Sundays which have boosted the idea of mission among the congregation. I am on the Mission Council and have been able to have input into our own mission support, thanks to the training I have had from OMF for Bridge Asia and through OMF material in general. John came to do a biographical sketch of Hudson Taylor while on home assignment, which led to a number of people (including our pastor) reading a Hudson Taylor biography and looking differently at how they pray about mission. Two of our young people have done mission related work experience, which I organised for them, and involved a lot of meeting/talking to former OMF worker as well as John and Sian via Skype.

  1. What were you concerned about before joining and how did you overcome that?

That I wouldn’t be able to do what I was signed up to do, having had no experience, and that I wouldn’t be able to get invitations to speak once I had exhausted all my own contacts.

I prayed a lot! I asked for lots of feedback from the people I knew who heard me speak in the early days, and tried to really take it on board.

  1. What training or support etc?

When I first started, the training material was pretty much still being written, so I have caught up with some of it later! I learnt more about OMF, how to approach doing a presentation and other countries where OMF works. I had lots of encouragement first from Andy Stevens and later from Charles Chalmers (OMF Area Representatives) both of whom really helped in quite different ways!

  1. Who would you encourage to get involved ? Why should people get involved with Bridge Asia?

I would encourage anyone with a bit of an interest in mission to get involved – it has been such an encouragement to find out that I could do something active even though I wasn’t called to go out on the mission field. Don’t be put off by thinking you have nothing to offer – my only skill was/is talking and God has used that! Getting involved with Bridge Asia has really given a focus to mission for me and would do for others I’m sure. There is a role to suit anyone. Early on I was asked to speak about Bridge Asia at an OMF Bournemouth prayer day, and amongst the things I said, this one below remains absolutely true. I feel it afresh when I go to a church that knows nothing about the needs of East Asia. It doesn’t only apply to Japan, though obviously different misconceptions will apply!

For those involved with OMF, who have mostly been thinking and praying about East Asia for years, countries like Japan have lost their strangeness and are not so unknown. You are aware of their needs and the vast numbers of unreached people. But in going out to talk to church groups, I am always reminded that (as was the case for me before I got involved) most people have never really thought about Japan as place which needs the gospel. It’s a developed nation and people are surprised to learn how few Christians there are. For people used to hearing about mission in Africa (generally fairly fruitful), it’s shock to hear that mission in Japan produces little obvious fruit. So, the Bridge Asia work matters – how will Christians in British churches understand the huge needs, if people are not out there telling them about it?

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